Welsh Housing Act becomes law, and it's time to prepare for licensing

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As promised, I can now give you the latest update on the Welsh Housing Bill.Martin Partington, Chair, The Dispute Service

The Bill has now received royal assent. The Housing (Wales) Act, once implemented, will require all landlords and letting agents in Wales to be registered and licensed. 

Lesley Griffiths, communities and tackling poverty minister with responsibility for housing, said yesterday, “This is without doubt one of the most important developments for people and housing in Wales for a generation. The mandatory registration and licensing requirements will help to address the issue of bad landlords and generally improve standards in the private rented sector.”

The details of how the scheme will operate are yet to be determined, but it will involve a two stage process: registration and licensing. After registering, a licence is acquired by attending training (however landlords will be exempt if appointing an agent to let and manage the property); agents must also join a professional body and ensure two thirds of their staff who are directly involved in the lettings and management of domestic tenancies achieve accreditation.

Enforcement will be the responsibility of local authorities and will include,

- fines for letting agents and landlords who operate without registration or licensing;
- rent stopping orders;
- fines for landlords who appoint unlicensed agents

Accreditation courses will be run by the scheme itself, though other providers - such as ARLA or the Residential Landlords Association - are likely to be authorised to provide relevant training as well.

I advised in my last blog that the industry must starting preparing for these changes. Now that the law has been passed it must be a priority. Agents already regulated should consider how they can market their services to landlords to make clear the advantages of using regulated agents, and how they will inform and support landlords through the changes. Agents not already regulated need to think about which regulatory scheme is best for them. Landlord and industry bodies should also now be planning how they will provide information to landlords for whom this will come as a great shock. For those letting in both England and Wales, things are about to get more complicated.

All industry eyes will now be on Wales. Just as the success of tenancy deposit protection in England and Wales led Scotland and Northern Ireland to launch their own schemes, the success (or otherwise) of Welsh licensing will undoubtedly influence policy on regulation in the rest of the UK.

Further updates will follow on the Housing (Wales) Act, and on the further expected changes in a Renting Homes (Wales) Bill, based on recommendations from the Law Commission, promised for 2015.


 


Posted by Martin Partington, Chair of The Dispute Service on 14 September 2014

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